There are more than 7,000 languages in the world, and if statistics hold, two weeks from now, there will be one less. That's the rate at which languages disappear. And each time a language disappears, a part of history — a subtle way of thinking — vanishes too. A new documentary called <em>The Linguists</em>, airing Thursday on PBS, follows ethnographers David Harrison and Greg Anderson as they race to document endangered languages in some of the most remote corners of the world.
In the ESL classroom at Johnston Elementary, assistant Stephanie Davis helps a kindergartner from Ghana sound out letters. On the other side of the room, a teacher works on reading with a second-grader from Mexico and another from Russia. And teacher Coert Ambrosino teaches a group of kindergartners with Mexican and Ukrainian backgrounds about animals. Scenes like these are taking place at every public school in North Carolina's Buncombe County as the population of students with English as their second language continues to grow at a rapid pace. In October, there were 2,125 such students in the school system — an increase of more than 120 percent over the course of five years.
Dayana Rodrigues carries a bucket of cleaning solutions and a vacuum with her to work. She used to clean houses to pay for college. Now, she is a career maid who speaks three languages. Rodrigues, 20, graduated in the top 5 percent of her high school class in 2007 and completed nursing prerequisites at Horry-Georgetown Technical College — all As and one B. In January, the college refused to re-enroll the returning student because she is an undocumented immigrant. "You know it's not personal," she said. "But it is."
One by one, 12 women climb aboard a shiny white van parked outside East Oakland's Garfield Elementary School. The women, Oakland public school parents who have emigrated from Latin America and Asia, are aboard a traveling classroom that is driven, maintained and taught by adult education teacher Don Curtis. They signed up for a class that would teach them new English vocabulary words (such as "principal") and technical skills, but also the general know-how needed to make sense of an American school system.
Mercedes Kestner looks into the eyes of her Latino students every day at Northeast Elementary School in Jackson, MI and sees herself. She came to the U.S. from Colombia about 35 years ago to enroll in high school classes through an exchange program. At that time, however, there was little support for Spanish speakers in American schools, said Kestner, 51. Today, as the Hispanic student population at Jackson Public Schools has increased in the last six years, officials say the district is doing all it can to make sure students receive the language and cultural support they need.
Area Latinos wanting to pursue higher education don't have far to drive these days. With the Grand Rapids Community College Lakeshore Campus opening in January at the Midtown Center, many Latinos can walk, ride a bike or take a bus to get to classes.
According to the Voices yearly report, "Illinois Kids Count 2009," which was released last week but compiled before the state switched chief executives, students in Illinois schools are more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, but little has changed when it comes to longstanding problems with education funding.
Can kids learn anything if they are exposed to a subject for only half an hour a week, with no homework? When it comes to learning another language, educators say yes. Foreign language instruction is considered more important than ever as the nation's demographics and national security issues change and the world's economies become intertwined.
Hispanic students are quickly becoming the largest minority in some Texas school districts, according to school administrators. The shift has forced some districts to take action on how to teach reading and writing to students who speak English as a second language.
Teachers in Illinois' School District U46 and Community Unit School District 300 this year have been working toward their master's degrees at no cost — and learning how to better help students with bilingual needs. Northern Illinois University has partnered with the school districts to provide certification for teachers of English Language Learners through a federally funded grant program.